FTA Issues Safety Directive for Washington Metrorail

The United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has issued a a Safety Directive to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. It relates to the 12 actions which must be carried out to correct track integrity deficiencies in the Washington Metrorail System.

FTA Issues Safety Directive for Washington Metrorail
© Larry Levine/Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

The 12 deficiencies were part of a series of findings from the FTA’s review of the Washington Metrorail carried out earlier this year, which found systematic deficiencies in the inspection, maintenance and repair of track which either have or could have resulted in incidents. The review was carried subsequent to the review of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s investigation into a major derailment on 6 August 2016. The FTA review looked at 10 track segments comprising portions of all six Metrorail Lines.

The FTA investigation looked into the quality of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s track standards, its procedures for identifying track defects and imposing speed restrictions, training for track inspectors and maintainers and resources available which support track inspections, coordination and information sharing procedures across maintenance departments, as well as track maintenance and construction quality programme issues.

The 12 findings detailed in the FTA report found that track inspectors are inadequately trained, there was insufficient time to carry out inspections of track, there were no clear processes for track inspectors and supervisors relating to speed restrictions, there was a failure to utilise inspection data to inform and prioritise track maintenance and that the current inspection and maintenance programme does not properly address the tunnel drainage system (where water corrodes track infrastructure).

In response to the findings, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority must now create an action plan to address the findings with their required actions. The action plan must meet FTA approval, who will go on to monitor their progress in implementation.

The FTA may enforce the actions by withholding of Federal financial assistance from Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, direct Federal funding to correct the safety deficiencies, or mandate restrictions and prohibitions on Metrorail operations in order to minimise risks. The FTA is providing provides temporary and direct oversight of Washington Metrorail in order to improve safety and bring infrastructure up to a good state of repair.

Anthony Foxx, U.S. Transportation Secretary, said:

“FTA’s comprehensive investigation into WMATA’s track inspection and maintenance program has revealed significant safety concerns. FTA has directed Metrorail to take specific action to correct these deficiencies, and continues to provide vigorous oversight of Metrorail’s safety efforts in other areas of operations.”

Carolyn Flowers, FTA Acting Administrator, said:

“While WMATA has taken a number of critical steps to address safety deficiencies, it must improve its track safety protocols and training programs. In addition, greater coordination is needed between WMATA track and maintenance personnel to prioritize work and adhere to established standards, including conditions that warrant speed restrictions or single tracking.”

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